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Armed Taliban on patrol, embassy sealed, airport besieged — stranded Indian’s SOS from Kabul

Social worker who has been working on girl child education in Afghanistan for 2 years says 150-200 Indians stuck in nation. Waiting for MEA response to calls, emails, he adds.

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New Delhi: Nearly 150-200 Indians are stranded in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover, desperately waiting for the Government of India to initiate a rescue operation, an Indian national in Kabul told ThePrint.

“I don’t know if the media in India knows this but there are about 150-200 Indians stuck in Afghanistan right now. No information has been given to us yet and we are desperately waiting for the Ministry of External Affairs to give us some response to our calls and emails,” the 32-year-old social development professional said on condition of anonymity.

“I spent hours at the airport yesterday (Monday) and could hear gunshots being fired for over an hour. It was unnerving,” he said, adding that the Indian embassy is sealed. “I, with a few other Indian nationals, then decided to live with local residents here in Kabul till the Indian government initiates something.”

He added: “We may think that we are safe inside these homes right now, but safety at this point is really an illusion. Every day amid this anxiety feels like a year.”

On Monday, a day after the Taliban stormed Kabul and took control of the country, videos showed Afghan nationals flocking to the Hamid Karzai International Airport, clamouring to leave the country. Some even tried to cling onto an American aircraft as it took off, and reportedly fell to their deaths.

The airport has ceased to function, and all evacuation exercises are taking place through the technical area, which is being operated by the US forces. The Indian embassy in Kabul, it is learnt, has been sealed following the evacuation of diplomats and staff in an IAF flight Tuesday.

The social worker said he has been in Afghanistan for over two years, working towards girl child education. He claimed the Indians stranded there are largely social workers or professionals with international agencies.

His family and friends have started an online petition asking the government to “Safely Bring Back Indians Stranded In Kabul”, stating that the Taliban were “just a kilometre away” from his location.

“My family is extremely worried about my safety. I just want to go home,” he said.

On Monday, MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the government was closely monitoring the situation. “The government will take all steps to ensure the safety and security of Indian nationals and our interests in Afghanistan,” he said.

In a tweet Monday night, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar released call and email details for the “Special Afghanistan Cell” at the MEA.

He also emphasised the urgency of restoring airport operations, saying discussions are under way with partners in this regard.

Rudrendra Tandon, Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan, who returned aboard C-17 Tuesday said in a press statement: “We’re continuously monitoring the situation because there are still some Indian citizens who are there. That is why Air India will continue to run its commercial services to Kabul as long as the airport in Kabul functions. Temporarily Air India had to suspend its commercial services because of the conditions in the airport.”

Also read: On the roads of Kabul, anxiety, fear, terror & gunshots a day after Taliban take control

‘Taliban guarding airport, risky situation on streets’

Speaking about the situation at the Kabul airport, the social worker said, “Stepping outside is risky right now but even then I went to the airport yesterday. We found about 8,000-10,000 people crowding the gates of the airport. The Taliban have put up armed personnel who are guarding the place.

“There is no government here, the system has broken down.”

The social worker claimed the Taliban had not launched any “manhunt” in Kabul yet, but added, “I can see armed Taliban patrolling outside my window. I can count the trucks and men going, everything is out in the open.”

However, he said, Indians stranded in Kabul “have full faith in the Indian government”. “We know we will be rescued,” he added.

(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)

Also read: India will facilitate repatriation of Hindu & Sikhs who want to leave Afghanistan, says MEA


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